[ANIME] PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA

Summary: There exist familiars who have the power to grant one wish to a chosen girl. However, in return that girl must then become a magical girl and fight against witches, evil creatures born from curses that are responsible for murders and suicides. A schoolgirl named Madoka Kaname and her friend Sayaka Miki are approached by a familiar named Kyubey and a magical girl named Mami Tomoe with offers of becoming magical girls. Another mysterious magical girl named Homura Akemi tries to prevent Madoka from agreeing to the contract.

“Remember this… and take it to heart: kindness sometimes leads to even greater tragedy.”

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[NOVEL] THE WOMAN IN THE DUNES – KOBO ABE

Summary: After missing the last bus home following a day trip to the seashore, an amateur entomologist is offered lodging for the night at the bottom of a vast sand pit. But when he attempts to leave the next morning, he quickly discovers that the locals have other plans. Held captive with seemingly no chance of escape, he is tasked with shoveling back the ever-advancing sand dunes that threaten to destroy the village. His only companion is an odd young woman. Together their fates become intertwined as they work side by side at this Sisyphean task.

“Being free always involves being lonely.”

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[NOVEL] KOKORO – NATSUME SOSEKI

Summary: Kokoro—meaning “heart”—is the story of a subtle and poignant friendship between two unnamed characters, a young man Watashi (“I” in Japanese) and an enigmatic elder whom he calls “Sensei.” Haunted by tragic secrets that have cast a long shadow over his life, Sensei slowly opens up to his young disciple, confessing indiscretions from his own student days that have left him reeling with guilt, and revealing, in the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between his moral anguish and his student’s struggle to understand it, the profound cultural shift from one generation to the next that characterized Japan in the early twentieth century.

“You see, loneliness is the price we have to pay for being born in this modern age, so full of freedom, independence, and our own egoistical selves.”

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[MANGA] DENSHA OTOKO – HITORI NAKANO

Summary: A nerdy otaku saved a beautiful girl on a train, and later that night posted an urgent query on the Internet forum called 2channel – How the heck does he talk to girls? What should he wear on their date? Where should they go? He was nicknamed Densha Otoko (Train Man) and the girl as Hermes on the Internet. The forum’s response was overwhelming, and the thread continued to grow along with their relationship.

Time and money can take care of stuff like studying English and going abroad, but travel agencies don’t sell tickets bound for Hermes’ house.

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[NOVEL] TOTTO-CHAN: THE LITTLE GIRL BY THE WINDOW – TETSUKO KUROYANAGI

Summary: This engaging series of childhood recollections tells about an ideal school in Tokyo during World War II that combined learning with fun, freedom, and love. This unusual school had old railroad cars for classrooms, and it was run by an extraordinary man–its founder and headmaster, Sosaku Kobayashi – who was a firm believer in freedom of expression and activity.

Down through the ages and in the whole world, Watt and Newton cannot have been the only ones to notice the steam from a boiling kettle or observe an apple fall.

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[NOVEL] JOURNEY UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SUN – KEIGO HIGASHINO

Summary: When a man is found murdered in an abandoned building in Osaka in 1973, unflappable detective Sasagaki is assigned to the case. He begins to piece together the connection of two young people who are inextricably linked to the crime; the dark, taciturn son of the victim Ryojin Kirihara and the unexpectedly captivating daughter Yukiho Nishimoto of the main suspect. Over the next twenty years we follow their lives as Sasagaki pursues the case – which remains unsolved – to the point of obsession.

“If a wild cat is adopted when she has grown up a little, although she is friendly, she never really lets her guard down.”

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Cliché Lessons

largeI wonder if you happen to notice, but cliché lessons are the hardest ones to learn.

Study what you love. Spend time with your family. Work hard. Keep trying…

They are slippery lessons: ones that you have to learn and relearn every single day. You listen to a TEDxtalk that made you want to change the world two years ago, and feel inspired all over again. This time with a slightly different version of reality: maybe you just want to change yourself; maybe you sign up for a yoga class. You read a book that made you want to become the next CEO like Howard Schultz the last summer, and get motivated all over again. This time with a totally different approach: you want to learn how to serve coffee. Human are such a forgetful and volatile species, aren’t they?

But maybe I’m not a grown-up yet. Maybe life has yet to deal a blow to me so hard that those cliché lessons are engraved in my mind, to the point that I don’t have to relearn any of them again.

Maybe someday I will find out…

[NOVEL] BLUE MOSHIKUWA BLUE – FUMIO YAMAMOTO

Summary: Souko at the age of 23 decided to get married with the amiable and liberal Sasaki who works for an advertising company, instead of the hard-working and loyal cook Kawami. Years later, Sasaki Souko meets her other self: Kawami Souko, the life that she gave up when she was young, is arm in arm with her former lover Kawami. Longing for a change, the two exchange lives for one month. In the search for new experience and meaning of life, Sasaki Souko has greatly disrupted the balance of her fate…

Her mouth tastes unpleasantly acrid and bitter. It is the taste of freedom she ever wished for.

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[NOVEL] GROTESQUE – NATSUO KIRINO

Summary: [Grotesque portraits] the malice and deceit that surround the female students of an elite all girls high school. ‘Here we have class based society in all its repugnant glory.’ [It tells the story of] the diabolically beautiful and nymphomaniac Yuriko and the isolated and aggressively competitive ‘outsider’ Kazue. Yuriko’s sister ‘Watashi’ (meaning ‘I’ – unnamed first narrator) feels deep resentment for the two, and tries her best to ruin them both. A monumental work of Kirino, which with overpowering literary style portraits the life of modern women (Øyvor Nybor’s translation of Grotesque’s summary Japanese version).

A woman who does not know herself has no choice other than to live with other people’s evaluations. But no one can adapt perfectly to public opinion. And herein lies the source of their destruction.

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